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The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.
The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
The Long Beach Poly girls’ volleyball team got a landmark win on the road last night against Lakewood, as they swept the Lancers in their regular season series for the first time in several years. The victory keeps the Jackrabbits in first place in the league, with a one-match advantage over Wilson ahead of their second-round showdown.
Poly had several players step up to lead them to victory in the 25-15, 25-14, 24-26, 25-20 match.
After the win, Poly celebrated with passion, making it clear how much the win meant to their team.
“We talked about the second half of league and our quote was, the first time is luck, the second time is skill,” said Poly coach Gerald Aquiningoc. “It’s about making a statement and proving that we are someone to be reckoned with. Lakewood has been the standard of our league forever, these seniors have never beaten them. So there’s an accumulation of those feelings, and the rivalry. We said we’d have to come in here and earn it and take it.”
It looked initially like it might be an easy time for the Jackrabbits, as they easily won the first two sets by a combined score of 50-28. The Jackrabbits have been an unusually effective high school team at setting their middles and getting production in the center of the net, and that was true to start the match. Middles Kristen Dear and Layla Moore combined for 15 kills and eight blocks in the match and were a big part of Poly’s early success.
Obviously with the ball traveling the center of the court, Poly’s passing is a big part of that gameplan.
“We do a lot of live serve and pass,” said Aquiningoc. “Everything we do is live, game-like, we want to be good at setting our middles, even if it’s 15 feet off the net.”
Poly led the match 2-0 and were up 23-19 in the third set when Lakewood ignited and fought back. The Lancers got huge kills from freshman Lucky Fasavalu, but a massive performance by Zaria Thornton (four kills in Lakewood’s final six points) helped put them over the top in a 26-24 comeback set three win.
That run by Lakewood got their crowd involved and made it feel like an old-school Lakewood/Poly match. That’s something that longtime Lancers coach Mike Wadley, now in his final season with Lakewood, said he was really glad for.
“We can play really well, and we can also not do that, and sometimes we have a hard time getting out of our own way,” said Wadley. “I was happy with how they fought back.”
The fourth set was also close and saw the crowd get involved. Lakewood took a 14-10 lead, but Poly rallied back behind big kills from Saniya Kimbrough and Cedra Talaga, as well as back-to-back aces from Taylor Mercado and another ace from Sydney Mercado. The Jackrabbits closed it on a solo block by Kristen Dear and another big kill from Telaga, who finished with 14 kills, 14 digs, two aces and a block.
“We knew after our wins in the first round of league we had to be mentally tough to pull through and do it again,” said Telaga. “We knew there would be a lot of pressure and I wanted to pull my weight today.”
Poly was led by Telaga as well as Dear and Moore, as well as 10 kills by Kimbrough. Thornton had a great match for Lakewood with 17 kills in the middle on .481 hitting, while Jade Epps added 11 and Fasavalue had nine.